All year round, former Husker and NFL veteran Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In the "Carriker Chronicles" video series, he breaks down the latest NU news, upcoming opponents, player updates and recruiting information, and he offers his insight into the X's and O's and more.
On Wednesday's episode, Adam Carriker talks to former Husker offensive lineman Chris Dishman, who shares a story on his personal encounter with suicide, and his advice for anyone seeking help.
Check out a full transcript below:
When Adam Carriker talks, you'll want to listen. Get every episode of the "Carriker Chronicles" in your inbox.
Welcome to the Carriker Chronicles, the people’s show where we check the pulse of Husker Nation. Brought to you by Nebraska Spine Hospital. Today, I am joined by former Husker, Mr. Chris Dishman. He’s from Cozad, Nebraska from 1993 to 1996. His senior year, he was an All Big 12 offensive lineman. He had an eight year NFL career, being drafted by the Arizona Cardinals as well as playing an additional year with the St. Louis Rams. How are you doing, Chris?
Chris: I’m doing good, how are you doing Adam?
Adam: I’m good, man, I want to thank you for joining me. Ultimately, there’s a bigger reason we’re doing this interview, and a message we want to get out to other people. But really quickly, before we get to that I wanted to ask about your thoughts on the current state of Husker Football and its direction under Coach Frost.
Chris: I really like the way Coach Frost is doing it down there. He was a teammate of mine- I think he’s building the program the right way. One of my main concerns right now is with the offensive and defensive line. We get a lot of skill guys, but if you don’t have the hosses up front, it ain’t gonna go. We’re getting these real fast guys, but we’re not dealing with the meat and potatoes of the team.
Adam: I say it tongue and cheek a little bit, those are the pretty positions, but championships are still won and lost in the trenches.
Chris: Especially in the Big Ten. You have to be able to run the ball well. With the weather the way it is and all the other things you have to deal with, if you can field a good running attack, you’ll be in the mix most years.
Adam: Absolutely, I completely agree. Real quick, do you have a Super Bowl prediction?
Chris: I want to see the Chiefs win just because I have a lot of friends who are Chiefs fans. I personally don’t care either way. I’m a Cardinals fan, I think there are only three of us out there. I know the 49ers are in the NFC West with us, but I’m gonna go with the Chiefs.
Adam: It’s going to be fun to watch. We probably have the two most talented teams in the big game. Now, the main reason for the interview is to get the message out there about suicide and break the stigma about mental health. You lost your wife, Audra, to suicide. You’d known each other since Kindergarten, you started dating in the 9th grade, and got married right before your senior season at Nebraska. Again, this is the main reason we’re talking today.
When someone says I broke my arm and I need to go to the doctor, nobody thinks anything of it. But if someone says they need to go see a psychiatrist, people look at that differently. They shouldn’t. It’s really the same thing. You’re trying to get this message out there, so what are your thoughts on this?
Chris: Just what you said. I was probably in that same category, as far as not talking about it. It’s always been a taboo and people look at it different. I want to break that pattern. There are things going on in people’s lives that you don’t know about. It happened with me, my wife didn’t show any signs of depression, didn’t go to a counselor, no signs of anxiety. I was in the dark on all of it. I wish the person I was with for 32 years… I didn’t even see it coming. That’s hard for me to swallow, that something was going on. Being on the criminal justice side of things, I’ve always seen the other side of counseling, where guys come in hooked on meds, so I always had a negative perception about counseling.
After my wife passed away 5 months ago, my eyes were really opened as far as going in and reading articles… I go to a counselor, now. I just knew I had to go talk to somebody. I’d be a hypocrite if I’m preaching this stuff and I’m not going to see if my mind is alright. That’s kind of the fight I want to take up, to let people know, you’re okay, you’re not alone. It’s okay to talk to people, get help, reach out for help. Society shouldn’t look at you any differently. That’s my goal right now.
Adam: Are you comfortable telling us about what happened that day? If not, that’s okay.
Chris: Yeah, it’s been 5 months and 5 days. Earlier that weekend. I lived for my wife. I didn’t go and hang out with the guys, I didn’t have a golf league, or go out and drink and booze, nothing like that. It was always just me and Audra. I would get home from work, and we would make supper together, dance in the kitchen, normal stuff like that. She was my person for 32 years. The weekend before, we had a private spot up at a lake, and we went up there every weekend all summer. Friday night we’d see who could get there the quickest and crack open the first beer on the little deck. It was a great summer.
Looking back to August, my parents came down, and they went camping with us. My wife was talking to my boss, they ended up being pretty good friends. I was out in the lake swimming, and she asked if I wanted to stay another night and just go to work from the camper. I said no, I wanted to go home and watch some preseason football, I hadn’t watched any football yet. So we ended up going home, but it was a typical weekend for us. We had fun all weekend, grilling and hanging out. I went to work the next day and she was in town, called me at the office and asked if I wanted her to bring me lunch. I told her no, I was getting off early that day and I’d just get something when I got home. We had a meeting scheduled later that night that we were going to go to.
I got home and she wasn’t there. It was weird, I tried calling her on the way home and she didn’t answer. I made a sandwich and was getting ready to head out to the meeting and she came walking in. Now, earlier in the summer, she had a couple episodes where she would start really sweating and look like she just jumped in the lake. We were thinking it might be menopause, but we didn’t know. Anyway, that’s what she looked like, and I was heading out the door when she said, Chris, I don’t feel well. She was going to go cool off, change, and meet me down there.
I left and went to the meeting, and she never showed. On my way home, I called her and she didn’t answer. I pulled in the driveway and her car was gone, which was really weird. I kept trying to call her, and texted my kids to ask if they’d heard from mom. Both said no, so I told them to try calling her since I wasn’t getting an answer. They tried, and called back and said they couldn’t either. I thought maybe she was at the campsite, sometimes we have bad service there. So I drove there, continued to call, nothing. I got there and drove around, and she wasn’t there.
At that time, I knew something was wrong. That was about an hour into not knowing where she was. I drove around looking to see where she could be. I ended up having the Sheriff do a welfare check and ping her cellphone. I didn’t file a missing person report, just the welfare check. They pinged her cellphone, so I knew she was out and about. I thought maybe something was going on and she’d call me. They continued to ping her phone to start a search. They eventually found her deceased in the car with carbon monoxide poisoning. Three or four miles outside my front door. The deputy, who’s a friend of mine, knocked on the door. Another friend who worked in the corrections department with me and knew her, walked up and found her in the car. My life has been a whirlwind ever since.
That’s the story, I don’t know, looking back my biggest concern is I always told her I loved her before I walked out the door. That day, I was running late to the meeting, and didn’t say it. That’ll kill me till the day I die.
Adam: Man, I can only try to imagine what your family has been through and how tough that is. You’re trying to make something positive come out of this and trying to get the message out. If you’re going through a tough time or see someone going through a tough time, reach out. With mental health, if you need to see somebody, it’s okay. It’s not the exact same thing as a broken arm, obviously, but it should be viewed in a similar way. You’re trying to make something positive come out of this, but how are you and your family doing these days? I noticed you’re more active on social media now than you were prior to last August. Is it mainly trying to get the message out?
Chris: Definitely. At some point, I knew I wanted to document how I felt. I’m not a journal writer, but early on, it was for me to council myself I guess. Get my feelings out there. As I was doing it, I thought that might be a good way to help other people see the other side of suicide. People think it’s a way out, but they don’t always know what the family goes through. The heartache and devastation to the family is what it causes. I use that, and I want to be as real and raw as I can be. I’m normally a jokester, and I put funny stuff out there, that’s how I am.
But I knew I needed to get it out there somehow, and I knew it would help me deal with my own feelings, putting it out there. It’s not easy typing through the tears, but I type anyway because it’s exactly how I was feeling at that time. It’s not premeditated, or even freaking spellchecked. I think the rawness is what helped people. Early on, I had people saying they’d seen it, and that’s when I thought it might be helping people. I thought maybe I could spin this into something positive. I’ve always been kind and passionate, respecting other people’s feelings. I think now even more so, I go out and promote kindness.
You never know what someone’s going through, so don’t judge them. If you have a friend who stops talking to you for a bit, check up on them and see how they’re doing. Going through this has been Hell. I’ve had a great support group of friends. A couple I’ve leaned on and they’re probably like, get away from me. I’ve leaned on them a bunch. They’ve unconditionally loved me and they want the best. My mom and dad and sister have been so supportive and there if I need to talk or just sit there. My kids are doing as well as they can, I worry about them more than anything.
My son is pretty reserved and doesn’t show his emotions too much. My daughter had to be super goal oriented about the whole thing. She’s been the rock. We get together once a week. I moved into Lincoln to be closer to them and get out of the house. There’s another story there. But this way I can be closer, we can go out to eat and just talk about what’s going on… It’s a process, you know, it’s going to take a while. It’s not something you can just turn the page on. It’s going to be with me the rest of my life.
Adam: It’s funny, you talk about being cathartic and writing for you was something that helped. I don’t know if you heard, but a couple years ago, my daughter Dakota got really sick, and she aspirated a peanut. She’s okay now, but at the time, we didn’t know how she was going to be day in and day out. I wrote so much on social media and I think some people kind of looked at me funny. I was sitting there waiting for news. Rather than dwelling on my emotions and letting my mind sit, for me, it was being cathartic and getting out my emotions that helped. And my wife and I would rotate- she’d have the kids, then I would have the kids. But I completely relate to that on a certain level.
It’s also interesting when you talk about never knowing what’s going on in someone else’s life. Because, someone can show up every day and be the happiest person, looking like they have everything together. No one has everything together, but I’ll never forget, we had this group of friends who would show up and we’d play games or cards, or whatever. One week, one of the guys was like, let’s actually talk. We were like, what do you mean, but he wanted to really talk. We went around the room and it was something we’d never done before. The lady who was always smiling and cracking jokes broke down and started crying, letting it all out. She kind of couldn’t stop, and we all looked at each other like, whoa, we had no idea.
You never really know what’s going on in someone’s life. If you see something that concerns you about someone, what would your advice be to reach out and help that person? Or if you’re the person who feels like they’re struggling, what would your advice be to that person?
Chris: Well, the person who’s struggling with inner demons, or whatever, try to get a hold of somebody- a counselor, or call the hotline. Try to use your resources that way. It’s kind of hard, each situation is so unique. If you see someone, just go up and talk to them. See how they’re doing. Let them know their life matters. Let them know that you care. Just be a person, you know? It’s funny when you look at our society, we try to raise our kids to know right from wrong and to be kind. Then you turn the news on, and our politicians fight each other every day, and these are our leaders. That drives me nuts. There are more temper tantrums thrown in the political arena than anywhere. You teach your kids, don’t fight, don’t bully. And then you see bullying 101 in our politics.
It’s about being a compassionate human being. Just going out there and seeing how someone’s day is going. That one little conversation might be all the difference in the world and you might never know it. You probably won’t ever know it, if you change someone’s life. But at least you know you’re being kind and compassionate.
Adam: My rookie year with the Rams, they had a psychologist come into the room and had everyone stand up. They told us to say hi to the person next to you, but give the worst hello and handshake you can think of. So we did, and no one would even look at the other person, would barely touch their hand. It was weird! It was me and James Hall, who ironically played on the 1997 Michigan football team. We had many debates on who was better between Nebraska and Michigan. Even though I knew he was going to do what the psychiatrist said, my heart still sank and I felt like he was a jerk.
Then, she told us to give each other the biggest hug, smile, and best hello we possibly could, then sit down. So we did, and my spirit felt like it got lifted. And I knew this was going to happen! But like you said, It’s just saying hello and being kind and caring. Last thing, are there any final thoughts or messages you want to put out there to anyone listening or reading this?
Chris: I guess the final thought is, you never think it can happen to you. I know that’s cliché as all get out. It was out of sight, out of mind. But it can happen to anyone, man. I’m living proof. I know that sounds cliché too. Being a widow is something I’d wish upon no one. As someone on the other side of suicide, it’s the most gut-wrenching thing I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve been hit hard in football. I’ve never been hit this hard in my life. I know I’m a different person now. Grief changes people. I read articles on it. I see the world different. I love and care different. I worry that I’m going to lose someone else. I don’t know if it’s because I lost the one closest to me, but I never worried about it before. But that’s the thing. I know I’m not the normal “Dish” that I was. I’m not that person anymore and I’ll never be that person again. And I’m okay with that.
Just go out and be kind. Today’s a great day, it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He’s one of my idols. I always said, if there’s one person I could have met, it wouldn’t be an actor or an athlete, it would be that guy. And I’d sit down and have a conversation with him. What he stood for is a lot like what I’m promoting now, with the equality, being kind, and having love in your heart.
Adam: Absolutely, well I want to thank you for joining me. This is actually my cellphone number that I called you on, so feel free to save it and use it as you see fit.
Chris: I will!
Adam: I never thought I’d share this before, but I will. There was a time in my life where I had suicidal thoughts as well. I went and saw a psychiatrist. I didn’t see him for long, and I probably should have saw him longer. The thing was, I felt like there was all this weight on me and it felt like it was getting heavier. It sounds silly, but she told me, every day, you carry that sack of bricks around. When you walk into work, take that sack off your shoulder and set it down so you’re free at work. When you leave to go home, pick it up and take it with you. Eventually, she said, we’ll start removing bricks from that bag. I quit going, I guess I was stubborn and I wanted to work it out on my own. Eventually I did, but I talked to a lot of other people. That’s something I never intended on sharing, but there’s no shame in these things. If you or someone you know is struggling, the National Suicide Prevention helpline provides 24/7 free and confidential support for people who are stressed. They provide prevention and crisis resources for you and your loved ones as well. The number is 1800-273-8255.
I want to thank you for joining me, Chris, and if you ever need anything, don’t hesitate to hit me up.
Chris: Thanks, Adam, I'll hit you later.
Adam: Alright, until next time, Husker Nation, Go Big Red, and always remember… to Throw the Bones
Thanks again to the Nebraska Spine Hospital. Ladies and gentlemen, when it’s your spine, you do not want to mess around. Experience matters. That’s why you can trust the experts at Nebraska Spine Hospital, the region's only spine specific hospital. They are the best at what they do.
When was Nebraska last ranked No. 1? Husker football's entire history in the AP Top 25
How often has Nebraska football been ranked at each position? When did the Huskers first appear at No. 1? When was the last time NU was in the top 10? Check out this photo collection featuring how Nebraska has fared at each spot in the AP Top 25.